Monday, June 27, 2011

Ruth's Story

Ruth’s story is short. 

She died at the age of five years.  It was winter.  It was cold.  And it was yet another loss for the young family of Boss Talbott.

Ruth Virginia Talbott was the second child born to Boss Henry Talbott and his wife Esther.  The couple welcomed their first daughter into the family on 21 May 1918.  I like to think that my great grandparents were excited over the addition of a little girl. I wonder what her 18 month old brother Crafton thought of this new little baby.  Was he excited?  Was he jealous?  Did he “help” his mother tend to the baby? 

Unlike many children who died young, Ruth did leave behind a small set of records. She appears in the 1920 census for Black Walnut, Halifax County, VA. She is living with her parents, her brother Crafton and her younger sister Elma. (The Talbott family listed on farm 183 on South Boston Road.)

The second record found for Ruth was a bill for her funeral.  The bill totaled $51.50 and included her casket and burial by the J.O. Owen Co of South Boston.   This is not a record source I have for many of my ancestors.  While I routinely search out death certificates, the funeral bill just seems sadder somehow.  More personal.

The last record used to learn about Ruth’s life came from her mother’s letters.  The letters filled in a few more details about Ruth’s life.  You may remember that Esther was a prolific letter writer as a young girl.  As a young mother, she continued to write letters to family and friends, just less frequently.  She wrote one such letter after Chrismas 1922.  The exact date of the letter is unknown, but clues show it was written between 25 Dec 1922 and 5 Jan 1923.  I see Esther sitting at the kitchen table after the children were in bed writing to her mother (Hattie Richardson).  She’s tired, but wants to tell her mother about their Christmas celebrations. 

 Ruth and her sister Elma were two little girls excited about a new doll and treats in their stockings.  The sisters spent much of the day caring for their doll. (Esther’s letters seemed to indicate one doll was given for the girls to share.) The three older children received and an orange and nuts in their stockings.  Years later, my grandfather Crafton would tell how excited he and his siblings were to get the oranges and nuts.  These were a greatly anticipated once a year treat for the children.

Ruth lost her mother Esther to influenza at the age of four, shortly after Esther wrote the letter referred to above.  Oral history tells that Bossy moved Ruth and her three siblings (Garnett was born in 1922) next door into the home of his parents Joe M. and Rosa (Bowen) Talbott.  Rosa helped raise the children after their mother’s death.  I can only imagine that was a confusing and frightening time this was for the young children.

A year later on 13 Feb 1924, Ruth lost her younger brother Garnett to illness.  Five days later Ruth lost her own life on 18 Feb 1924.  Family history reports the siblings died of influenza as their mother had a year earlier.  Ruth was buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in South Boston, VA beside her mother and younger brother.  With Ruth’s death, this young family of six became a family of three in just 13 months.

Only one photograph of Ruth Talbott is known to exist.  It is a grainy post mortem photo discovered in the wallet of her brother Crafton Talbott upon his death in 1993. The photograph was of himself and his sister Elma as young children.  Elma is holding a single white flower.  When the photograph was removed from his wallet, it was discovered the photo was folded in half.  Unfolding the photograph revealed the image of Ruth in her casket on the porch of her grandparents’ farmhouse.  Out of respect for a young girl and her family, I chose not to post it.  It is enough to know that she was remembered.


  1. What a sad story but such a beautiful post. I especially love the last paragraph and your decision to not post the photo.


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